Thank you for the outpour of love and support, post my mother's demise. By now, all of you know how she passed away. This entire episode has a lot of lessons for seniors, elders and their family members. It has a lot of lessons for us too. After all, we will all be seniors in 6/7 years.
We are 3 siblings in the family - me and my 2 elder sisters. All are based in Bangalore in different localities, while parents lived in their ML home constructed in 1974. As you can imagine of their generation, they worked hard, saved hard, and went through a lot of struggles, to make an asset for themselves. That is one of the reasons, my parents (like a million others) were very attached to their home.
Since 2008 (15 yrs back), I have been trying to get my parents to move to the same apartments in Whitefield where I live. But this could not happen as my parents were very adamant that they should live independently and die in their own home. In fact, they live in a very good area, with excellent neighbours, and innumerable conveniences. This is what built a strong case for them to not leave this home.
My father who passed away in Oct 2022 at the ripe old age of 92 had only one last wish that he should die in his home - which happened! My mother had exactly the same wish. However, me and my sisters were often worried sick about her safety, post my father's demise. All requests to move her to one of the 3 children's apartments (basically to have a flat of her own here, so that she can be independent and yet close to one of the children) did not appeal to her initially.
But finally, she agreed to move to an apartment in their present area by June 2024. As per her, it would take her that much time to overcome the attachment to this house and the pain of leaving it, after living here for 50 yrs. Till that time, we children wanted to get a steel gate erected outside the front door, for her safety. But she vetoed the idea, citing a public CCTV outside our home, and helpful neighbours. We also suggested a video doorbell but she laughed the idea away. We finally got her to agree that once she moves into an apartment in June 2024, there would be a resident caretaker. She was half-hearted about the idea, but we insisted.
We 3 children would visit her once or twice a week without fail. Same with her siblings, relatives, friends, family friends and neighbours who were fond of her and would come often. Not to mention – innumerable vendors, agencies, 3rd parties and service providers (such as attendants for my parents in the past, electrician, plumber, coconut-picker, medicine supplier, caterer, maid, flower vendor, vegetable vendor, etc etc). This certainly increased her risk of exposure to criminal elements.
On Saturday, 27th evening, 2 miscreants entered the home, gagged her, tied her hands and then strangled her. Apparently, my mother knew these guys. That is because she has given them drinking water (2 glasses on the dining table) and was even preparing tea for them in the kitchen. Before doing these, they have managed to her unawares, gag and strangle her, snatch the 2 chains in her neck and a pair of gold bangles, pushed her face down on the ground in one of the bedrooms, and after ensuring she is dead, closed the bedroom door and scooted quickly. Apparently, they could not find anything else valuable in quick glance, or they wanted to be safe.
As luck would have it, there is a CCTV installed by the Govt just outside her house and several others in the vicinity. The footage shows these guys walking into the home and also away from the home wearing masks and caps.
Neighbours who would drop in to see her suspected something and they collectively wanted to enter the house. At the same time, a lady inspector attached to the ML police station was walking near the house. She enquired what the discussion was about, walked in, opened the bedroom door, saw my mother’s body, immediately cordoned off the area, and called the police station. Neighbours immediately called us 3 children and we rushed as soon as possible. By the time we all reached, the place was swarming with cops. Forensics and inquest followed till late night, the home was sealed for the night and released only next morning. Media, who had already gotten wind of this incident, had come in vans and parked outside our house. Post mortem was completed the next morning.
My mother’s death has taught us a lot of lessons which we would like to share with people (both elders and their children) who are in a similar setup today.
INDEPENDENCE…AT WHAT COST
It's common to find innumerable parents with the attitude “we don’t need our children to manage our lives, we are perfectly capable of managing it ourselves. We are 2/3/4 decades older than our children and have seen a lot of the world, we know better”. The problem with this approach is, the world that we live in today is evolving at a dizzy pace. Our parents’ generation have not been exposed to so much of what we are exposed to. If children show genuine concern and take time off to provide valuable tips or suggestions, parents should be open to examining them. After all, every generation has something to learn from another generation. Extreme emphasis on independence can expose seniors/elders to bias, or ignorance, and hurt their life in one or more ways.
MOVE TO SAFER LIVING, IN TIME
The mushrooming of apartments in tier-1 cities like Bangalore, is a good thing for seniors and home-alone elders. Apts in gated communities are safer. Plus, apps like MyGate monitor movement of outsiders and family, capture their mobile numbers etc. This is the first thing that elders/seniors should do once they are in their mid-60s. That will give them ample time to adjust to a new neighbourhood where they will stay for the rest of their life. Making such a move in the 80s and 90s is harder. Other options include Assisted Living centers and upmarket old-age homes.
NEIGHBORLINESS IS OVERRATED
My parents had excellent neighbours all around. Neighbours and elder-friends would call or meet them often. This made them overconfident about the support system, and increased their attachment to the house. In reality, neighbours and elder-friends who are hassled often only complain behind the back “why don’t they go and live with their children”?
TRUST IS NOT EVERYTHING IN LIFE
It's easy for smart and canny outsiders to earn the trust of elders by calling them appa, amma, ajji, thaatha, uncle, aunty etc. They even recount sad aspects about their life (most of which can be fake) to earn their sympathy. My parents were also vulnerable in this matter. Many times, when we children land up at their house, we would be horrified to see all kinds of people walking in and out of home. This would lead to heated discussions in the family. But my parents would dismiss it saying “you people are overreacting”.
TECH IS GOOD BUT COMMON-SENSE IS PRECIOUS
CCTV, Video Doorbell, Steel mesh-gate, Security apps are all useful precautions and must be implemented. But these come up with their own limitations. They can and never must become a substitute for common-sense. The miscreants involved in our case, would have surely noticed the public CCTV outside my parents’ home. Yet they dared to do this act. Apparently, they too have seen how some elders can be egoistic, impractical, over-confident, and haughty about their capabilities.
CRIMINALS ALWAYS HAVE AN UPPER HAND
Criminals are always smarter, more organized and cautious too. The CCTV footage in this case shows them approaching, and leaving the home in cap and mask. Yet they were known to my mother. That explains the water glasses and tea boiling on the stove. Surely, they would have removed the cap and masks at home, so as to not arouse suspicion. Most of the napkins, towels and sarees used to gag and strangle my mother were at home, and not from outside, so as to minimize evidence.
CONFIDE IN CHILDREN, BE SUSPICIOUS OF OUTSIDERS
Crappy TV serials and crappy movies show children as scheming, plotting and conniving people, while outsiders are sweet, caring, supporting, empathetic etc. In reality, it’s the other way round. Nobody can care for somebody like their parents do. In the same way, nobody can care for somebody like their children do. Yet, in today’s world, it’s common to find elders being aloof from children and intimate with outsiders.
This can be dangerous. It poses great safety risk. Elders should confide every single change in their lives to their children and be suspicious of outsiders who are getting too close for comfort, or being unusually concerned. Elders should be as discrete with, and as suspicious of – outsiders, as possible. It's easy for outsiders to gain trust and collect information about the family. My parents would discuss everything under the sun, with all and sundry, in-spite of we cautioning them against it.
There was a time when Indians regarded children as the real wealth. But somewhere along the line, an entire generation of urban-educated, affluent middle-class started dismissing this idea as nonsense. Maybe it's time to revisit the same?
MINIMIZE INTERACTION WITH OUTSIDERS
Elders/seniors should use fewer vendors and agencies, and also not change them often. Door delivery from online agencies and couriers should be across a meshed steel-gate for conversations. Parcels and packages should be left outside the door and elders must collect them long after the deliverer has left. Also, it’s not good to change vendors again and again.
MAKE A DATABASE
When the miscreants were running from my parents’ house, the masks on one of their faces slipped, so a full view of one of the faces was captured in the public CCTV. Unfortunately, none of us siblings could recognize the guy. If your parents are engaging with some agencies and vendors on a regular basis, the company details and the representative’s photos, mobile-number, and address must be collected. This can help, in case of any untoward incident like this. This effort should be initiated by the children, as not all elders may be tech-savvy, or take the trouble of doing this. They may dismiss such measures as 'fear-mongering'.
SENTIMENT IS USELESS
“My house”, “our house”, “my husband’s house”, “our home our temple” are all useless sentiments. My mother would have realized this lesson the hard way while being strangled to death. In a life, or world where nothing is permanent, excessive attachment to any asset, no matter how old it is, doesn’t make sense. Every aspect of life should be seen in totality, in perspective. Practical, real-life intelligence is the greatest asset an elder can have. For that matter, anybody can have….
Before concluding, I request you to forward this message to as many people and groups as possible. We don’t want anybody to go through what our family is going through. The police were quite candid, that nothing much may come of this case. The criminals may get bail again and again. In fact, it may take 2 years, for even the first summons from court. In such a scenario, prevention is better than cure.
LET US SAVE AN ELDER WHILE WE STILL CAN!
An aggrieved family. வாட்ஸ் அப் பதிவிலிருந்து